India has finally approved the building of a much-delayed project to fit its indigenously developed Airborne Early Warning & Control technology into a bigger platform like the Airbus A321. Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) proposal to develop new airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF) using Airbus jets bought from Air India, was gathering dust for about a decade. AEW&C is commonly referred to as AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System).
DRDO has already delivered India’s two indigenously developed AEW&C systems, mounted on a Brazilian Embraer-145 jet, in February 2017. The Netra AEW&C system (not to be confused with mini UAV NETRA integrated with Radiation Sensor) has a range of around 200 km.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the project to field 6 new AEW&C systems with a budget of Rs ₹11,000 crores as per open sources.
The IAF also operates the three EL/W-2090 Phalcon AEW&C systems mounted on a Beriev A-50 platform which is based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport aircraft. India has also been negotiating for two Phalcon AWACS for a long period of time.
CABS and AEW&C
The Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), a unit of DRDO has designed and developed a state-of-the-art Digital Airborne Active Electronically Scanned Array (DA2ESA) for primary & secondary radar for surveillance for Advanced AEW&C-MkII. The New AEW&C to be developed is expected to feature a composite dome for antenna mount on top of the aircraft carrying the AESA for primary and secondary surveillance radar. The antenna is 360-degree coverage capable. This was developed for the AWACS INDIA program.
CABS has also offered to equip Airbus C-295 aircraft with an upgraded Netra airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system.